How Susanne passed the English to German ATA exam

Susanne Kraetschmer, an OSTI member, passed the ATA English to German certification exam that she took at the OSTI 2015 conference. We asked her how she prepared. You can find her profile in the OSTI member profiles!

This year, OSTI members are connecting in a study group. Click here for more information.

Susanne’s recommendation:

Are you considering taking the ATA certification exam this year? Don’t know where to start? Let me give you a brief, easy-to-follow breakdown of how I managed to become an ATA-certified translator for English to German last year:

1. Order a practice test from the ATA
It consists of one passage with a general subject matter (if you want, you can request more than one passage, but expect to pay $80.00 for each test). This might seem cost-prohibitive but be aware that the practice test provides an invaluable learning opportunity: it will be returned to you graded by a regular certification exam grader, with errors marked and classified by type and degree of seriousness. Moreover, you will have a better understanding of whether you have a reasonable chance of passing the exam and/or find out areas that you need to improve on.

Ideally, translate the test passage under certification exam conditions, meaning under a time limit, without use of online resources and in handwritten form.

A word of caution (trust me, I had to learn the hard way!):
Allow 15 weeks to receive the graded practice test back!
If you would like to know your test results before registering for the exam, you need to consider this waiting period in your timeline.

Upon receipt of your graded exam, review it according to the Framework for Standardized Error Marking and the Flowchart for Error Grading (on the ATA website) to get a feel for how the grading process works.

2. Submit your Exam Eligibility Requirements Form
along with all the appropriate documentation, a signed Code of Ethics form and a $35 processing fee to the ATA. Once your application is approved, you can register for the ATA certification exam sitting and language combination of your choice.
If you have not acquired your T&I degree in the United States like I have, make sure to check the ATA website whether your T&I program is listed under the List of Approved Translation and Interpreting Schools. If your school is listed there, it makes proving your eligibility a lot easier!

3. Practice, practice, practice!
Find or found (pun intended) a study group, ideally with people in your language combination. Carve out some time each week or every other week to correct each other’s translations. My language combination English to German was not so easy to come by, but I did find another translator working in the same language combination through OSTI who wanted to prepare for the exam as well.

As we were translating from English into German, we combed through the websites of renowned American publishing houses, e.g. the New York Times, Reuters or National Geographic, for articles on a variety of subjects and translated them, if only partially, since most articles are generally longer than the text passages at the exam. As you correct each other’s translations, you can use the above-mentioned Flowchart for error grading to make the experience as authentic as possible.

Make sure that you practice under exam conditions: Set a timer, do not use online dictionaries, and above all, practice your handwriting! It was eye-opening to me how out of practice I was with handwriting. You do not want to take any chances or leave it to the guesswork of the grader to figure things out for themselves.

4. More questions?
Watch the free ATA-webinar Preparing to take the ATA certification exam on the ATA website or email me at I’d be happy to anwer any questions you might have!